Antonio Conte’s Outburst Is Not How a Leader Should Speak

Inter closed their Serie A campaign on a positive note as they beat Atalanta 2-0 in the final round of the 2019-2020 season to finish just one point short of title winner Juventus.

The Nerazzurri led by Antonio Conte closed with 82 points in the table – 13 and 10 points more than in the last two seasons when Luciano Spalletti was at the helm –  though their short distance from Juventus was rather due to Maurizio Sarri’s poor performances in the latest Serie A rounds than to Inter really threatening the Bianconeri’s title chances.

All in all, Conte’s first year in charge of the Nerazzurri resulted in a significant improvement in Inter’s performance and, being this only the first of a three-year deal, there is reason to believe that the black-and-blues might be on the right path to potentially break Juventus’ domination in Italy in the coming seasons.

But just minutes after his convincing 2-0 win over Atalanta, the Lecce-born coach let himself go to an unexpected outburst as he directly pointed his finger at Inter’s management in a post-match press conference. It was an outburst that may put his permanence at the helm of the Nerazzurri at risk. Surely, it came with terrible timing as Inter’s season is not over yet – the Milanese side taking on Getafe of Spain on Wednesday night to continue their Europa League campaign.

In Conte’s eyes, the Nerazzurri staff were guilty of “not having protected” the team and himself. “This has been a very difficult season for us from all points of view,” Conte said in his post-match remarks. “I didn’t like what they did to the Team and what they did to me either. The boys’ work was not recognized, and my work was not recognized, I found very little protection by the club. Not at all.”

Conte went on to say that “after the Europa League, we will make an evaluation. I will make mine, and the club will make their” hinting at his possible decision to leave – provided that the club, which is rumored to be furious at his outburst, will not anticipate him and opt for giving him the boot.

That was only the last episode in a string of complaints addressed not only at his own club but at the whole calcio establishment. Only a few weeks ago, after a 2-2 tie with Roma, Conte’s target had been the post-COVID calendar: “Inter’s calendar is crazy, it was made to put ourselves in trouble. We always play at 9.45 PM, other clubs always have one more day to rest” he argued, actually omitting that Inter had already likely burned their Scudetto chances before the lock-down.

The former Juventus, Chelsea, and Italy coach is indeed not new to such explosions and over the years has been dubbed in the Belpaese as a “complainer” and a “whiner.” Conte’s results on the pitch, however, speak for themselves: The 51-year-old won three titles in three seasons at Juventus and led the Azzurri to the Euro 2016 Quarter Finals despite leading one of the less-talented Nazionale rosters in the past few decades.

Conte is, frankly speaking, one of the few managers potentially able to break Juventus’ domination and Inter surely made a deal in landing him last summer. But the Nerazzurri need stability and steadiness, and Conte’s words from Saturday night were not the words of a leader who is expected to steady the ship.

Inter are a traditionally unstable environment, where frustrations and tensions tend to accumulate only to suddenly explode. As they entered the 2019-2020 campaign, the Nerazzurri were just out of an exhausting tirade with former captain Mauro Icardi – another one who is not exactly known for being able to understand when it’s time to keep his mouth close. The last thing they needed was another complainer.

Antonio Conte may have quite delivered on the pitch – even if some would say that he was expected to snatch the Scudetto at first try – but his continuous poking at his management may finally lead club owners Suning to reconsider their business relationship with the Lecce-born coach, especially with the likes of Massimiliano Allegri being on the market. Understandably, there will be no decision taken until the conclusion of the Europa League campaign – the last chance for the black-and-blue side to grab any silverware this season.

After the storm, Conte made a partial retreat on Monday as he remarked to Italian press agency ANSA that “I joined Inter on a three-year project and, as I always did in my life, I will work hard and fight with all my strength to make it a winning project.

Provided that he manages to reconcile with Inter’s management, Conte surely has the strength to make the Nerazzurri successful. It just remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to channel that strength in the right direction and behave like a true leader should – a leader that Inter desperately need.

Feature Photo: Paolo Rattini/Getty Images